By Bev Bachel
Years ago, a writer friend told me that when you’re self-employed you never really retire, you just wake up one day and realize all your clients are gone. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened to me, at least not yet, but it has got me thinking about my own path to retirement.
While it’s a few years off, I have made the transition from full-time work focused on what clients ask of me (e.g., write a brochure about trucking software) to part-time work focused on what I enjoy (e.g., write a blog post about intergenerational living).
So, does doing work I enjoy, often without worrying about how much I get paid, mean I’m semi-retired?
According to Kate Schaefers, executive director of the University of Minnesota Advanced Careers Initiative—a gap-year program for experienced professionals as they transition from career jobs into more meaningful, post-career lives, semi-retirement—is defined as intentionally working less than full-time, typically doing less stressful and/or more fulfilling work, even if such work pays less.
Take Louis Capecci for example. He retired from his retail career but now manages home improvement projects and vacation properties for others. And while Rob Kirby still works full-time for a Big Ten university, he’s already laid the groundwork for semi-retirement by developing his skills as a freelance writer.
Capecci and Kirby aren’t alone. According to U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 13 million Americans age 65 and older will be in the labor force by 2024.
There are many reasons for this: healthier, longer lives, as well as the need to save more for retirement top the list. “Plus, people are eager to stay engaged, especially when they’re able to do work that’s meaningful to them,” says Schaefers.
Tips to keep in mind
If you’re considering semi-retirement, here are five tips to make the most of it:
- Take inventory. Schaefers advises asking yourself several key questions: What am I good at? What do I enjoy doing? How can I bring these things together in a way that leads to rewarding work?
- Network with others. Who do you know who is doing something you find interesting? Connect with them to learn more. “Whether they’re former colleagues, long-time friends or someone you met last week while standing in line at the grocery store, a network of diverse people can help you connect with meaningful work,” says Schaefers.
- Try things on for size. For instance, if you’re interested in podcasting, can you volunteer to help your neighborhood association or favorite nonprofit launch a podcast?
- Embrace differences. “We have five generations in the workplace today, yet many of us live and work in age-segregated environments,” says Schaefers. “By reaching out to those who are younger and older, we can fuel both our creativity and productivity.” Plus, when we feel more connected, we tend to perform better.
- Trust that you’ll figure it out. “You have to be okay with not having all the answers, even with not knowing what you’re doing,” says Schaefers. “At some point, things will fall into place and your future will once again feel bright.”
Bev Bachel is a Twin Cities freelance writer who is making the transition from full-time work to semiretirement.
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